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Prejudice in "To Kill A Mockingbird"
To Kill a Mockingbird
Prejudice can be described as an opinion or judgment of a person based usually on race or religion before all the facts are known. In the novel To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee shows the terrible effects that prejudice has on people, including the main characters: Arthur Radley, Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson.
To begin, the awful consequences of prejudice are shown through Arthur Radley ( Boo Radley). Throughout Maycomb, Boo Radley is known as a “monster” for casually stabbing his father one day with scissors while he was cutting up paper for a scrapbook. Although this is a terrible thing to do, no one really knows if there was a motive behind his actions and the people of Maycomb are not giving Boo a chance to show how kind he really is. Another incident concerning prejudice towards Arthur Radley is between Scout, Jem and Dill. While Dill is visiting from Meridian, the three children play many acting games, and one summer they decide to act out a scene about the Radley’s. The play ends with Boo Radley (played by Jem) stabbing his Father, Mr. Radley (played by Dill) in the leg. This game is prejudice because they are only acting out what they have heard by word of mouth, and not actually witnessing the incident. The game abruptly ends when Atticus sees what they are doing. A third and final incident is about rumors encircling Boo Radley and what he supposedly does at night such as eating squirrels and peeking into windows:
Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were bloodstained – if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off. There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten, his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time. (13)
Ultimately, Scout finds out that Arthur is not any of these things, but because most people in Maycomb haven’t seen him for years, the rumours will go on about Boo Radley forever.
The second character affected by the dehumanizing effect of prejudice is Atticus Finch. Almost all of Scouts friends have fathers that are young and able to do things that her father is unable to do because of his age. This shows prejudice because Scout is jumping to conclusions before getting the facts straight and could have at the very least asked her father about something unique he can do. Later we find out Atticus has amazing aim with a gun. The second incident of prejudice towards Atticus is when he is called “nigger lover” for agreeing to defend a black man named Tom Robinson. The third occurrence of prejudice towards Mr. Finch is when Bob Ewell spits on Atticus’s face after the trial for defending Tom Robinson: “What kind of man are you!” Bob Ewell says this after he finds out Atticus is going to do his very best to defend Tom.
The third and probably the worst case of prejudice was with Tom Robinson. Near the beginning of the book, we find out that Tom Robinson, a black man, has been accused of raping Mayella Ewell, Bob Ewells daughter: “I see that black negro ruttin’ on my Mayella” (173). Mr. Ewell, even though he knows that this isn`t true, does his very best to make himself sound convincing, and that he saw Tom raping Mayella . While Scout, Jem and Dill are watching Tom Robinson’s trial, along with almost everyone in Maycomb, Atticus presents facts that are so revealing of Tom Robinson’s innocence. Unfortunately, the jury is consisting of only white, red neck farmers who believe that the black man did it without considering any facts put in front of them. The last case of prejudice is when Scout is trying to cheer Dill up after Dill hears how horribly Tom is treated by Mr. Gilmer while Tom is on the stand: “Well Dill, after all he’s just a Negro.” (199) In Maycomb, people are treated very differently based purely on their colour, and economic status.
To conclude, Lee’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird shows the awful effects of prejudice through three of the main characters: Arthur Radley, Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson. Arthur Radley is widely thought of as a monster but in the end turns out to be a caring person. Atticus Finch is discriminated against for doing what he thinks is right, which is defending a black man. Finally, Tom Robinson is put through so much racism and hatred that he is a dead man from the moment he stepped inside the Ewell’s house. This novel demonstrates what deadly effects prejudice can have on people and its effect on an entire town of people.